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Monthly Archives: September 2015

5 Natural Wonders You Can See In Chile’s Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert in the north of Chile covers an area of 1,000 kilometres of land between the Pacific coast and the Andes. It is the driest desert in the world other than the Polar regions. Most explore the region by using the little town of San Pedro de Atacama as the base. A visit should be for a least three full days and will include visits to the most of the following natural wonder.

El Tatio

Flickr: Jen Morgan

El Tatio Geysers

El Tatio Geysers is the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world, as well as being one of the highest at 4,350 metres above sea level. There are over eighty active geysers, the highest of which erupts steam to over six metres. The name means oven in the Quechua language. You’ll need to get up early to see this natural wonder, tours depart around six in the morning.

Valley of the Moon

Located very close to the town of San Pedro de Atacama is the Atacama Desert. This bizarre landscape made up from varying colours of stone and sand formations make it look somewhat like the surface of the moon, hence the name. This desert area is one of the driest places on earth. No rain has dropped here in over a hundred years. Interestingly the area was used for testing the Mars rover prototype. Tours here usually arrive in the afternoon allowing for some time to explore before watching the incredible daily sunset.

Puritama Hot Springs

After a day of exploration, the Termas Baños de Puritama is the perfect place to relax. Now owned by the Explora hotel chain, these eight hot pools created from geothermal spring waters from the Atacama Desert canyon and 30 kilometres of so from San Pedro de Atacama.

Atacama Salt Flats

Another one of Chile’s most amazing natural wonders, the Salar de Atacama (salt flats) are the largest Chile at over 3,000 square kilometres. Amazingly as the sunsets and the temperature drops sharply, the salt cracks forming clusters. It is also home to many species of birdlife. It is located within Los Flamencos National Reserve.

Flickr: Naturaleza

Flickr: Naturaleza

Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons

Two more lagoons in Los Flamencos National Reserve are the Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons. There two lagoons were separated by a lava flow. Much wildlife can be seen in the area including Andean and Chilean flamingos, silvery grebe, Andean gulls, Andean foxes, vicuñas, Andean foxes and Darwin’s leaf-eared mouse.

Desert flowers

Arguably one of the best times to visit is during the desert flowering phenomenon that occurs between September and November. Although most of the region receives little to no rainfall, the El Niño causes a band of warm ocean weather along the coast which causes a little precipitation in the southern part of the desert. This germinates the dormant seeds producing a sea of wild flowers.

See our tours to the Atacama Desert here.

RELATED: 8 Amazing Journeys You Should Take In Chile

6 Penguins That You Will See On An Antarctic Cruise

With the Antarctic cruise season almost upon us we will be producing a series of articles about the wildlife and landscapes of this incredible region.

Out of the seventeen species of penguin on earth, only two actually survive in the inhospitable conditions of the Antarctic. Most other species live either on the Antarctic Peninsula or the Southern Hemisphere islands like South Georgia. There are around seven species that you are likely to see on an Antarctic cruise.

The Emperor Penguin

Perhaps the most famous of the penguin species, the Emperor are the largest of the all penguins. They also breed the further south, forming huge colonies on the sea ice that surrounds the continent. For a species which breeds in the harshest conditions they also have the highest survival rate standing at 95% and can live up to 20 years. Interestingly, some never actually set foot on the continent, preferring to live and breed on the frozen sea.

The Chinstrap Penguin

The Chinstrap Penguin is found in the South Georgia Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland, South Orkneys and more. Their name comes from the black line below their heads which make them appear to be wearing a black helmet. They are common with an estimated eight million pairs, found in colonies of over 100,000 at a time. Chinstrap penguins return to the same nesting site each year to mate with the same partner.

Flickr: Chadica

Flickr: Chadica

The Adélie Penguin

The Adélie penguin is the only penguin species along with the Emperor penguin which lives on the Antarctic with rookeries found all along the Antarctic coastline. They are named after Adélie Pepin, the wife of Jules Dumont d’Urville, the French explorer who discovered the penguins in 1840. They are some of the smallest penguins and can dive up to one hundred and seventy metres to catch their food.

The Gentoo Penguin

The Gentoo penguin is closely related to the Adélie and the chinstrap. They can be distingused from the other species by the wide stripe across the top of their heads and their bright orange bill. They also have the most prominent of tails of all the penguin species. As the penguin moves on land it sticks this tail out moving it from side-to-side which gave it its scientific name – Pygoscelis meaning rump-tailed. They don’t form the same size colonies as other species tending to stick together in smaller groups.

Flickr: Liam Quinn

Flickr: Liam Quinn

The King Penguin

The King penguin is the second largest species after the Emperor which it is closely related. They can often reach a metre tall and weigh up to 16 kgs. They are mostly found on the Subantarctic island of South Georgia and do not live on the continent itself. The King penguins are excellent divers often reaching one hundred metres, although records show depths of over three hundred.

Flickr: Liam Quinn

Flickr: Liam Quinn

The Macaroni Penguin

The name of the Macaroni are found are mostly found on the Subantarctic islands, although one colony is found on the Antarctic Peninsula. Expects estimate there are around eighteen million individuals making it one of the largest species, although sadly there numbers are shrinking. They are a small, around 70 cms in length and have a distinct feature is the yellow crest that extends back from the centre of their forehead. Interesting the Macaroni penguin always lays two eggs, one slightly smaller than the other. However, the small egg almost never produces a chick, only hatching if the larger of the two is lost.

To see all of these penguin species and the amazing world that they inhabit, why not visit them on an Antarctic cruise. To view all 2015/16 cruises along with prices visit out Antarctic cruise list.

RELATED: Bucket list worthy things to do in the Antarctic

6 Gastronomic Experiences in Mexico

Much of the Mexican food one eats outside the country is a mixture of the many dishes that make up this rich culinary landscape. More often than not, it’s not even close replica of what you’ll find in Mexico.

With influences from the ancient civilizations including the Maya and Aztecs as well as the Spanish who brought the recipes and blended them with the exotic ingredients – tomatoes, avocados and cacao. Believe it or not, Mexico gastronomy has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage due to the preservation of the recipes and diversity of cooking techniques.

There are many ways to experience the gastronomy of Mexico. Just head out onto the streets of any town or city and you’ll find plenty of great food to explore. Here are six amazing food and drink experiences that shouldn’t be missed.


Flickr: jay8085

Taste tequila in tequila

Tequila has become phenomenally popular over the last few years, but nearly all the distillation of this spirit comes from the town of Tequila and the surrounding Jalisco state. The agricultural land that grows the agave plant that is used to create the drink is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The easiest way to see the region is by taking the Tequila Express, a train that runs passengers through the countryside (complete with mariachi bands). Of course, in Tequila you can visit some of the world’s best known Tequila brands to sample the drink and learn about its production.

Flickr: Joe Driscoll

Flickr: Joe Driscoll

Coffee tasting in Chiapas

When most think of coffee Mexico is not usual a country which is associated with the drink. But Mexico has a rich coffee growing heritage which can be seen in the state of Chiapas. After leaving the town of San Cristóbal de las Casas the lush green surrounding countryside has many local family run coffee plantations to explore. Mexican coffee tends to be medium body and milder than its counterparts. Learn about the production from harvest to cup and sample a few really good brews.


Flickr: Karen

Street food in Oaxaca

Although street food is food throughout the country, most agree that the finest comes from the city of Oaxaca. This is a city that is obsessed with food. Taking a tour with an expert local foodie is the best way to try the food, but if you decide to go it alone you won’t be disappointed. As well as the usual suspects – tacos and tamales (which are excellent here), a few things to look out for include tlayudas (sometimes nicknamed Oaxacan pizza), enfrijoladas and the meat barbeques. Oaxaca is known as the land of the seven moles.

Flickr: Everjean

Flickr: Everjean

Eat the sacred Cacao

Mexico has a rich history of cacao production which goes as far back as 1900 BC. It was originally served as a hot bitter drink mixed with spices and corn puree. Sugar wasn’t added until the Europeans arrived in the 16th century. Around Tabasco there are many small cacao farms settled deep in the forest area. Here you can learn about the chocolate making process. After the green grains are fermented they are washed, toasted and the shell removed before being ground slowly into a smooth paste. This is then mixed with other ingredients like sugar before being molded. As well as trying your hand at making chocolate there will be plenty of samples to try.

Wine tasting 

Many don’t know that Mexico produces wine. Although it isn’t considered as a top producing nation, the country still produces a small amount of very drinkable wine. There are three different wine producing regions, but 90% comes from the peninsula of Baja California. Mexican wine began with the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century who brought vines from Europe. One of the most important wineries is Casa Madero founded in 1597 and has varietals including chardonnay, syrah and chenin blanc.

Eat seafood in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is located on the Western Pacific coast. It is arguably one of the best places to eat seafood in the country. Lined all the way along the beach are fish stalls selling very cheap barbequed seafood. Shrimps and fish marinated in Mexican spices and cooked over an open grill are extraordinarily delicious, and the setting looking over the Pacific Ocean is fantastic. Walk along the Playa los Muertos until you see the small concrete pier. Below this you will find three shellfish vendors, there table stacked full of oysters and clams. Incredibly fresh and served with plenty of chili sauces and lime, this is an experience not to be missed.

To start your gastronomic journey through Mexico, get in touch.

RELATED: A guide to Mexico City street food